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Michael Foot’s Fathers

D.A.N. Jones, 4 December 1980

My Life with Nye 
by Jennie Lee.
Cape, 277 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 224 01785 3
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Debts of Honour 
by Michael Foot.
Davis-Poynter, 240 pp., £9.50, November 1980, 0 7067 6243 6
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... If Jennie Lee, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot had achieved Cabinet rank together in the 1960s, the United Kingdom would be in better shape now. ‘That is my truth,’ as Bevan used to say. ‘Now tell me yours.’ What have they in common, though, this leftist Gang of Three, the Englishman, the Welshman and the Scot, Bevan, his wife and his friend, all from such different backgrounds? They have similar opinions, of course: but what of their human and moral nature, their style of writing and speaking? It may be worth noting that all three are childless and parentful: all three have been devoted to Protestant Christian parents and have (to my regret) firmly rejected the faith of their fathers ...

Taking the Blame

Jean McNicol: Jennie Lee, 7 May 1998

Jennie LeeA Life 
by Patricia Hollis.
Oxford, 459 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 19 821580 0
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... In 1957 Jennie Lee wrote a long letter, which she did not send, to her husband Aneurin Bevan, asking him to give her ‘a little self-confidence’. The end of the letter makes it clear that Lee is really talking to herself: I don’t know quite what to do for the best. Shut up and take the consequences, sit tight on the safety valve, ease things a little by small squeals that humiliate me more than they annoy you or pretend that I am being ‘unselfish’ by not asking for your co-operation, by deceiving you into believing that all is well, a sick woman needs only a few more vitamin pills and she will cease bothering about anything except weeds in her garden ...

The First Protest

Stephen Frears, 24 May 2018

... government sacking an artist, a cultural hero. In England the minister of the arts was Jennie Lee, the widow of Aneurin Bevan, and my brother and I had painted slogans around Nottingham when an incoming Tory council cancelled the building of the new Nottingham Playhouse. I went off to work on Lindsay Anderson’s if … ., cutting out the ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... while always expecting them to do his will. When Tribune had the nerve to criticise him, his wife, Jennie Lee, tried to have the paper closed. In fact, the whole period now seems shrouded in sectarian madness, right down to Jennie Lee claiming that her husband had been murdered by the stress he was put under by his ...

Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 433 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12683 5
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James Maxton 
by Gordon Brown.
Fontana, 336 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 00 637255 4
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Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888-1988 
edited by Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian Wood.
Polygon, 184 pp., £19.50, January 1989, 0 7486 6001 1
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... the list of entitlements to mothers and children. In 1932, he led the ILP out of the Labour Party. Jennie Lee was a fellow Scot who went with him. ‘Yes, you will be pure all right,’ Nye Bevan chided her: ‘But remember, at the price of impotency.’ Others accused Maxton of being too lazy to want government office. Brown’s summing-up, which is more ...


Frank Kermode: What Went On at the Arts Council, 4 December 1986

... at 105 Piccadilly is said to have changed since the days when Lord Goodman was chairman and Jennie Lee Minister for the Arts. Among the cuts advertised in The Glory of the Garden, and later implemented, was a reduction of 50 per cent in the allocation to literature, accompanied by the abolition of the Literature Department. Fifteen or so years ago ...

A Babylonian Touch

Susan Pedersen: Weimar in Britain, 6 November 2008

‘We Danced All Night’: A Social History of Britain between the Wars 
by Martin Pugh.
Bodley Head, 495 pp., £20, July 2008, 978 0 224 07698 2
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... Miners’ Federation, does not; the charismatic Aneurin Bevan figures (albeit for his marriage to Jennie Lee rather than his politics), but Ernest Bevin, the period’s most adept wage negotiator, does not. These men lived and breathed the politics of class: the divide between employer and worker was, for them, primordial and almost impassable; the ...


Owen Hatherley: Nye Bevan, 7 May 2015

Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan 
by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds.
I.B. Tauris, 316 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 78076 209 8
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... British Union of Fascists; and he didn’t approve of the decision made by his soon to be wife, Jennie Lee, to stay in the ILP when it disaffiliated in 1932 (she eventually rejoined Labour, and as arts minister under Harold Wilson devised and created the Open University). Bevan’s response to her when the ILP left Labour was typically cutting, not to ...

Darling Clem

Paul Addison, 17 April 1986

Clement Attlee 
by Trevor Burridge.
Cape, 401 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 224 02318 7
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The Second World War Diary of Hugh Dalton 1940-1945 
edited by Ben Pimlott.
Cape in association with the London School of Economics, 913 pp., £40, February 1986, 9780224020657
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Loyalists and Loners 
by Michael Foot.
Collins, 315 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 00 217583 5
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... biographical essays is a joy to read. From Heinrich Heine to George Orwell, from William Lovett to Jennie Lee, Foot ranges from the prophets of the 19th century to the politicians of his own day. The enemies of promise are routed, the friends of liberty vindicated, and all with a sparkle and wit that none but A.J.P. Taylor can match. In Michael Foot’s ...

As the toffs began to retreat

Neal Ascherson: Declinism, 22 November 2018

What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Head of Zeus, 360 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78497 235 6
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The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A 20th-Century History 
by David Edgerton.
Allen Lane, 681 pp., £30, June 2018, 978 1 84614 775 3
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... it a launching push with public money. He and the men and women he worked for – Hugh Dalton, Jennie Lee, Tom Johnston, Aneurin Bevan – would know how to stop the metaphorical train’s backward slide and set it climbing again. But to what strange landscapes? For that disciplined, centralised ‘new British nation’ they created will never be ...

Crossman and Social Democracy

Peter Clarke, 16 April 1981

The Backbench Diaries of Richard Crossman 
edited by Janet Morgan.
Hamish Hamilton/Cape, 1136 pp., £15, March 1981, 0 241 10440 8
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... been apprised of the inwardness of this situation when receiving unwonted support from Fred Lee. ‘If the T & G think they’re going to dictate Parliamentary policy,’ Lee had expostulated, ‘it’s time the AEU told them to get out ...’ Crossman once asked Tom O’Brien, as Chairman of the TUC, why ...

The Angry Men

Jean McNicol: Harriet Harman, 14 December 2017

A Woman’s Work 
by Harriet Harman.
Allen Lane, 405 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 0 241 27494 1
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The Women Who Shaped Politics 
by Sophy Ridge.
Coronet, 295 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 4736 3876 1
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... by helping their fathers and husbands earn a decent ‘family wage’. Labour women MPs like Jennie Lee, first elected in a by-election in 1929, saw married women’s interests as subsumed in their husbands’ and working women’s interests as ‘sectional demands’: ‘We cannot ask for equal pay,’ she told Castle, ‘when the miners’ wages ...

Dastardly Poltroons

Jonathan Fenby: Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 21 October 2010

The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China 
by Hannah Pakula.
Weidenfeld, 787 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 297 85975 8
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... meant. But the generally accepted story (told, it’s true, by Chiang’s second wife, known as Jennie, whom he had discarded) suggests a different set of motives. The matchmaker was Ailing, the most astute and crafty of the sisters. She had identified Chiang as the coming ruler and was overheard remarking that he needed a new wife: she dismissed ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote, 2 April 1998

Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... Lillie Mae, his broken-winged father Arch Persons, his blousy maiden aunts, Sookie and Callie and Jennie, who brought him up as a nearly-girl – he raced for the glorylands. Capote’s young life is a small, operatic cliché, a story of abandonment in a slow-burning Southern hollow, all the world held at a distance, all of a boy’s wonder clouded with local ...

More or Less Gay-Specific

David Halperin, 23 May 1996

by Leo Bersani.
Harvard, 208 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 0 674 40619 2
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... chastises for allegedly betraying his ideal of an anti-social homo-ness. ‘We are not family,’ Lee Edelman insisted (with apologies to Sister Sledge) in a keynote address to the Sixth North American lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Studies Conference in November 1994: ‘We are not ... and should not be under any coercive mandate of affection predicated on the ...

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